Good Hope Story

This is very likely one of the hardest stories I have ever given. I will take you back to the age of thirteen. This is where my addiction started even though it More »

WHOS Sunshine Coast Client reflection

I was born in Gladstone Qld on the 23/10/1979.  My mother and father separated when I was one year of age. Mum found a new boyfriend who was her partner til I More »

WHOS New Beginnings Client Story

My life before I got to New Beginnings was very depressing. I was out of control in so many ways. I had recently moved back from Mt Isa and was in a More »

WHOS MTAR Client Story

Prior to coming to WHOS MTAR my life was unmanageable to the extent where even going to the chemist to pick up my methadone was a struggle. I was stuck in a More »

WHOS Gunyah Client Story

I was surrounded by drugs from an early age. My father was addicted to drugs and there wasn’t many times I did not see him with a beer in hand or some More »

RTOD Client Male 35 years old – 110 mg Methadone

Before I thought about coming to WHOS RTOD I had done about 12 detox programs and thought every time I could stay clean myself. It took a long time to realize this More »

WHOS RTOD Client Female 35 years old – 130 mg Methadone

Life before WHOS RTOD was absolute hell for me. I have one sister who is alive and 2 brothers deceased. My father passed away last year and my mum is dying from More »

Hunter resident reflections

What it was like. At the age of 11 it was just natural to me that everyone used drugs, I thought nothing of it. I listened to everyone glorifying it so I More »


Hi, my name is Sophie and I am an alcoholic. I will be eternally grateful to the Therapeutic Community at Cyrenian House, my counsellor, my very wise sponsor,  my Higher Power, my More »


Contact / About ATCA


ATCA’s Executive Officer and Board
The Association
Role of TCs
Harm Minimisation2015 ATCA Constitution
Organisational Development
Special Programmes
ATCA’s Executive Officer and Board of Directors
click on the photos below to view Board Members’ biographies


    Lynne Magor-Blatch Lynne Magor-Blatch, Executive Officer
    Lynne was first appointed to the position of Executive Officer of the ATCA in June 2009. This is a part-time position, which she holds concurrently with an appointment as Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong, School of Psychology. Lynne trained initially as an art teacher, before becoming a psychologist with degrees in Forensic and Clinical Psychology. She commenced training in TCs in the United Kingdom in 1974, working at both Alpha House in Portsmouth and the Ley Community. In 1979 Lynne commenced working with TCs in Australia, developing programs for adults and families.
    Garth Popple, Chair
    Garth is Executive Director of WHOS and currently holds the position as: Treasurer, Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NSW (NADA). He was inducted into the National Drug and Alcohol Awards Honour Roll in 2007 and received the Prime Minister’s Award in 2010.
    Mitchell Giles, Deputy Chair
    Mitchell has worked in the AOD sector for the past 25 years in both acute and community settings. He is passionate about the work we do and in ensuring that we deliver effective services to our key stakeholders. He is particularly interested in evidence supported and outcome based services. The Therapeutic Community model offers a holistic approach to which the rest of the health sector is catching on. Mitchell notes that in a climate of change, the challenges to for all of us are great and increasingly we may need to think and act strategically as a collective.
    Gerard Byrne, Treasurer Gerard Byrne, Treasurer
    Gerard has spent the past 25 years working in the AOD field; and is currently the Clinical Director for The Salvation Army Recovery Services, which covers NSW, Qld and the ACT. He holds Board positions on NADA, Queensland Network of Alcohol and Drug Agencies (QNADA), Alcohol Tobacco Other Drugs Association ACT (ATODA), and has been the Treasurer of ATCA for the past 6 years.
    Carol Dawes Carol Daws, Secretary
    Carol is a Member of the Golden Key Honour Society for Academic Achievement, CEO Cyrenian House Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Treatment Service; Past President and past Treasurer of the ATCA; Past Treasurer, Western Australian Network Alcohol and Other Drugs (WANADA). Carol has been working in the Non-Government AOD sector and at Cyrenian House in various roles from clinical work through to management and CEO since 1988.
    Eric Allan, Public Officer
    Eric is Executive Manager of Residential Programs Odyssey House Victoria, and a member of the International Advisory Panel for the International Journal for Therapeutic Communities. He has been a Director of the ATCA Board since 2000 and past President 2002/2004. Eric is the treasurer of Visionary images, a community group dedicated to providing real collaborative opportunities between young people, artists, and government a past board member of Reclink Victoria, a not-for-profit charitable organisation dedicated to advocating for and improving access to sporting and recreational opportunities for disadvantaged people and the benefits which flow from this, such as community connectedness and improved health and well being.
    Johnny Dow, Director
    Johnny is Director of Higher Ground Drug Rehabilitation Trust in Auckland, New Zealand. He trained as a Social Worker and is a New Zealand Registered Psychotherapist. He has worked in the addiction sector and Therapeutic Community movement since 1998. In 2008 he received the ATCA award for significant contribution to the Therapeutic Community Movement. Johnny is currently the Chairperson for Profile, which is an Addiction Treatment Providers forum in the northern region of New Zealand.
    Carole Taylor, Director
    Carole has a great deal of knowledge of that sector as she commenced her time in the NT working solely in remote areas, something she continued to expand as the CEO of CRANAplus. Her son and husband are both Aboriginal and from unrelated regions, with her son deriving his roots from the Arrente people of Central Australia. Carole has, for the past seven years, been a very strong representative on a number of round tables and expert advisory groups representing remote Australia, and feels that such a representation would benefit ATCA. For example, around 95% of DASA clients are Aboriginal and whilst they too benefit from the TC model, Carole believes we could do a little better in catering for the needs of such a group and maximise the impact even more than we currently do. She also has a passion for Governance and ensuring that organisations are transparent and relevant.
    Mark Ferry, Director
    Mark Ferry, Director Mark is the Chief Operating Officer with the Ted Noffs Foundation, which provides services for young people in New South Wales and the ACT. He has worked in the alcohol and other drug field for the past 25 years, including working in Therapeutic Communities for the past 15 years. In all this time the vast majority of his work has been with young people, and in the TC context, with young people aged 13-18. Young people form a large part of the people we work with in the AOD sector, yet their voice is not always heard. ATCA has recognised this through their work on the ATCA standards for adolescent TCs and Mark is keen to represent the views and issues of young people, the TCs they are a part of and contribute to the wider issues facing ATCA today.


The Association

Our 44 member agencies provide more than 72 Therapeutic Communities (TCs) and associated services across Australia and New Zealand. These TCs vary in size from 10 to 150 beds, with their residential program length from short to medium to long term. Therapeutic Communities also vary in their program structure and content, some based on a 12 Step Model philosophy, others on a family therapy model or cognitive behavioural interventions, and others with a combination of some or all of the above.

However, all TCs have one important factor in common – they are underpinned by the concept of ‘Community-as-Method’ in which the community itself is seen as the main vehicle for treatment and change. The TC model has proven to be a powerful treatment approach for substance use and its related problems in living (DeLeon, 2000; Magor-Blatch, Bhullar, Thomson & Thorsteinsson, 2014; Vanderplasschen, 2012).  All TCs take an approach that treats the whole person through the use of peer community, supported by a variety of evidence based services and interventions related to family, education, vocational training, physical and mental health.

Members of ATCA are diverse in terms of the range of programs offered, to meet the particular needs of the client group. In general, programs aim to have enough structure to ensure a degree of order, security and clarity, while allowing room for residents to learn, make mistakes and learn from experience.

The desire to continually improve the service offered has led members to consult the research literature, to seek forums for exchange and to encourage client involvement and feedback on all aspects of service delivery. It has also led services to consider means of matching clients to services and to developing new initiatives. For example, brief intervention programs of 4 – 6 weeks are available, some programs offer services to clients on opioid substitution therapies, some offer residential withdrawal management services and groups requiring specialist approaches, such as women and families with children, people with co-morbid mental health conditions, young people and victims of physical/sexual abuse.

It must be emphasised that whilst TCs maintain an environment free from illicit drugs and alcohol, this does not mean a rejection of medically prescribed substances. Residents may require psychotropic medication and all agencies have appropriate medical, psychological and psychiatric support. The use of methadone and other pharmacotherapies is supported by a number of TCs, either as a reduction and withdrawal regime, or as stabilisation and maintenance. Other programs offer a range of naturopathic therapies.

Our member agencies are cognisant of the public health risks of transmission of HIV and in particular of Hepatitis C (HCV) and the need to include safe sex, safe needle use and health education messages to clients.

Therapeutic Communities provide treatment which fit within the harm minimisation continuum, providing an opportunity for each person to make an individual treatment choice, based on their previous experience and attempts at treatment.

Role of TCs

Many residents entering a TC have previously attempted other treatment pathways – including detoxification, outpatient counselling, pharmacotherapies and other residential services. Many clients will enter a TC a number of times, sometimes succeeding, but relapsing at a later time. Others will respond to treatment at the first attempt. TCs tend to treat those with entrenched and more self-destructive dependence patterns and for whom the prognosis of recovery by less intensive methods may not be as good. It is important to understand that ‘one size does not fit all’ and therefore it is important that clients are offered a range of treatment options.

For many, the TC is an alternative to lengthy imprisonment. This is a positive option for both the individual and society, as the TC provides both a cost-effective option to prison and the opportunity for help and rehabilitation. TCs offer the possibility for complete lifestyle change, and treatment frequently leads to the individual becoming a contributing member of society.

TC treatment costs need to be examined in the context of alternative treatment costs – hospitalisation, imprisonment, the cost to the community, the cost of correctional services and justice interventions. The cost of substance use includes:

  • Direct costs – medical care and expenditure, its sequelae and non medical expenditure i.e. prison, law enforcement;
  • Indirect costs – loss of earnings due to death, imprisonment reduced human capital; and
  • Psychosocial costs – reduction in quality of life (Pitts, 2009).

It is estimated that for every $1 spent on treatment, there is a savings of $7 through reduced health, welfare and justice system costs. Most importantly, the person is provided with an opportunity of treatment, and the chance to change their life.

Almost all TCs are non-government agencies and in part reliant on non-government funding. Any cost/benefit analysis should recognise that TCs are one of the few areas of drug and alcohol treatment where, to a degree, the ‘user pays’ principle has been implemented. Clients contribute their labour to reduce costs (as well as the therapeutic value of work they contribute).

Quantification of individual suffering and despair is difficult, equally so is the value of returning that individual to a fulfilling and productive place in our society. The wholistic approach offered by TCs leads to significant improvement in many areas of individual functioning. Success is also difficult to quantify – abstinence or reduction in drug consumption, shift from illegal to legal drug use, adoption of safe usage practices, improved work performance, reduced criminal activity, improved interpersonal relationships, increased self-esteem are all legitimate areas of success and all areas targeted by TC programs as part of a harm minimisation approach.

Harm Minimisation

Harm minimisation has three pillars which are:  Harm Reduction, Demand Reduction, and Supply Reduction. Therapeutic Communities, whilst being primarily a tertiary level treatment within the pillar of Demand Reduction, incorporate many harm reduction initiatives into their day to day practice. Such as HIV education, distribution of split/safe kits, education of residents on relapse, the dangers of alcohol, and safer sex practices.

Organisational Development

TCs are dynamic organisations, evolving and responsive to changes in the environment in which they operate, and to changes in client presentations. Agencies encourage continued development and training in their staff, and this is an area where increased government funds and support is necessary. Although TCs have always provided some integration services, over the last few years there has been a greater emphasis on re-integration and continuing after-care programs. TCs provide a range of aftercare services, including half-way houses. Programs also foster links with self-help programs, and/or run programs for ex- residents.As TCs have evolved to meet demand and increase their range of services, staffing within TCs has also changed. TCs now employ multidisciplinary teams, including AOD workers, psychologists, medical personnel, social workers, group therapists, vocational trainers, teachers, sports instructors, childcare workers and family support workers. Staffing structures in TCs includes within the range of qualified staff, members who have themselves also completed a TC program. Staff members who bring with them the experience of recovery provide strong role models for residents in treatment and hope in the recovery process.

Special Programs

Like other treatment options, most TCs attract a majority of male clients. ATCA member agencies in the various states are implementing a range of strategies to encourage greater female participation – separate women’s program, childcare, parenting programs. The recent rapid expansion of methadone programs across Australia will ultimately lead to the need for creative solutions to the problem of providing support to those who wish to reduce their use. TCs are already providing one avenue. Several TCs have programs offering treatment to clients on methadone and other pharmacotherapies who wish to reduce and withdraw within the supportive context of counselling and treatment. As the number of clients on methadone increases, we expect that agencies will develop creative and new ways of responding to these clients. Other programs are also providing the opportunity for clients to become stabilised and maintained on their pharmacotherapy. We endorse Mattick & Hall’s call for TCs and methadone maintenance programs to work more collaboratively.

Ethics & Standards

The ATCA has adopted a ‘Staff Code of Ethics’ and a ‘Client Bill of Rights’. All members must now incorporate these in their programs.ATCA launched its own ‘Quality Assurance Peer Review’ system some years ago in order to maintain and improve treatment standards within the TC. The nature of the TC means that as part of their daily operation all agencies have in place client grievance procedures and structures which provide checks and balances to staff and which protect client’s rights and provide TCs with a model of ‘best practice in management and client protection and rights’. In September 2009, the ATCA launched the National Standards for Therapeutic Communities (Alcohol and other Drug) and Therapeutic Communities Training Package.The project is seen as part of an overall development of national standards for alcohol and other drug agencies, and as such will fit within a National Framework.The ATCA’s objective is to ensure the integrity of the ‘Therapeutic Community’ principle is maintained and will continue to stand as a model of best practice in the treatment of substance misuse and co-occurring disorders.The aims of this project were to:

  • Provide specialist service standards which identify and describe good TC practice which can be incorporated into a national quality framework.
  • Therapeutic Communities to engage in service evaluation and quality improvement using methods and values that reflect the TC philosophy.
  • Develop a common language which will facilitate effective relationships with all jurisdictions (federal, state and territory).
  • Provide a strong network of supportive relationships.
  • Promote best practice through shared learning and developing external links.
  • Build workforce capacity
  • Enable Therapy
  • Unity within the AOD and comorbidity sector.
  • Create an environment for sustaining the ‘career paths’ of trained AOD workers within the NGO sector, including the valued practice of workers with ‘lived’ experience of the field. Therapeutic communities particularly value the experience of staff who are graduates of programs, and seek to incorporate learned knowledge and experience into their professional practice.


The agencies which ATCA represent all endorse both the value of independent research and the need for increased research to assist us in continually improving the quality of our services. The ATCA website provides papers and presentations from past conferences and links to others websites which include research studies in therapeutic community treatment.

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